Monday, June 24

Much Ado About Nothing – Shakespeare’s Globe

Shakespeare’s enduringly delightful tale of wit-crossed lovers enlivens The Globe Theatre this summer, pouring Mediterranean sun into every darkened crevice of that wooden “O”. Directed by Associate Artistic Director Sean Holmes and composed of an energetic cast of young actors, this production is both brash and bashful.

The convivial environment of the open-air theatre is well suited to these frolicsome festivities and each of its performers seem intent upon maximizing the audiences delight in their collective spectacle. From the processional marches of the visiting Don Pedro and his crew of lovesick soldiers to the courting dances of Leonato and his bevy of irreverential young maidens, every opportunity for mirth is here seized. Led in their revelry by the ever-at-war and never-in-love (until right at this moment) Beatrice (Amalia Vitale) and Benedick (Ekow Quartey), this production strikes a decidedly silly tone and maintains its light-hearted humour through even some of its direst moments.

Each of its actors displays a unique connection with their character and brings a modern voice to even some of the most entrenched figures of the dramatic cannon. Emphasis is placed on expressivity over authenticity and adlibs abound and recoil through the playing space. Movement direction by Tamsin Hurtado Clarke and fight and intimacy coordination by Maisie Carter both contribute to the overall environment of ease, and the simplicity of storytelling is aided by the lack of inhibitions between performer and audience facilitated by The Globe’s traditional style of staging and immersive storytelling environment.

Photo: Marc Brenner

Grace Smart’s bright and bold set comprised of trees, barrels, and crates of presumably “civil” oranges is visually pleasing and her costumes, particularly those worn in the play’s formal revels and intended for comedic effect, are particularly diverting. These pleasant distractions, however, are not enough to keep audiences wholly invested in the characters themselves.

What this production reaps in theatrical spectacle it leaves fallow in emotional depth, with its joviality unfortunately undercutting both its drama and its romance. The tensions it skates over in its altogether inoffensive presentation of a story with some undeniably nasty underlying plot elements are sorely missed and no amount of sugar-coating makes this pill any less bitter. Adam Wandsworth is compelling in the role of the lovestruck and very conflicted character of Claudio but is not ever granted the opportunity to play into his dialogue’s menace. Robert Mountford’s foppish Don John too delights crowds in his debauchery but never quite manages to elicit the boos and hisses that he so desperately craves from an altogether far too placid crowd. Dharmesh Patel alone rises above these considerable structural limitations to deliver an entirely convincing double performance as the ill-mannered Conrade and histrionic Friar Francis, both possessed of a crowd-capturing fervour for performance.

As is customary of The Globe’s performance mode, the play is accompanied by live musicianship playing ear-pleasing compositions by Grant Olding and the sun-ripened pageant is altogether entertaining if only slightly oversweet.

Playing until 24th August, https://www.shakespearesglobe.com/whats-on/much-ado-about-nothing/

Reviewer: Kira Daniels

Reviewed: 18th May 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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